This spring, Steffanie Smith’s busy life will get much busier.

That’s when Smith will take over as chairwoman of the United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C.

Smith will formally begin her duties during the association’s annual convention in Las Vegas April 20-22 but has spent the past year serving on the board and preparing to take over the top seat.

“I’m very excited about Las Vegas because we’re putting on a great show this year,” said Smith, chief executive officer for onion grower-shipper River Point Farms LLC, Hermiston, Ore.

Her first priority, Smith said, is continuing to build support and increase the number of salad bars through United Fresh’s “A Salad Bar in Every School” initiative.

Smith said she strongly supports getting salad bars into every school because of its benefits for students — better nutrition and access to fresh fruits and vegetables — and benefits for the industry by developing consumption habits in children early on and creating lifelong consumers of produce.

Smith’s enthusiasm for the program is evident, said United Fresh’s outgoing chairman, Jim Lemke. Lemke, senior vice president of sourcing for C. H. Robinson Worldwide, said Smith will continue to be a strong champion of program, as she did during her previous year on the board.

“Steffanie is really pumped about this area,” Lemke said.

2010 may be a good year for pushing the initiative, Smith said, given first lady Michelle Obama’s campaign against childhood obesity and raising the profile of produce with a garden at the White House.

In addition to salad bars, Smith said she wants to also focus on working on United Fresh’s effort to harmonize auditing protocols like good agricultural practices, to reduce the number of audits growers and other produce companies undergo when they sell to multiple buyers. Smith said she wants to see United Fresh remain strong in its Washington, D.C., lobbying efforts.

“United Fresh needs to continue to lead and set the standards for how an organization represents itself in D.C.,” Smith said.

Having already participating in many United Fresh town halls all over the country, Smith said she knows the demands of chair’s travel schedule and is grateful for having such a strong staff at River Point to step during her absences.

“I’m passionate about what we’re doing,” Smith said.